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How UK SMBs Are Betting on Social Media Marketing to Survive

In this Marketing Report:

If you have been convinced to set a social media marketing budget for your company, you’d be on the right track.

As our report on the state of social media reveals, demand has soared in the last year and a half, and more SMBs than ever need professional support with their social media.

As a business, this large pool of potential users is too good to miss, and that is why it is no surprise that social media marketing investments have been on the rise in the UK in the past 5 years.


more social media projects on Sortlist over the past two and a half years.


Audience type with target potential customers


of customers are more likely to recommend a brand when they have enjoyed a positive experience with it.

Why Is Social Media the #1 Place to Be for UK Companies?

Why Is Social Media Marketing on the Rise in UK? 

As a business in the post 2000 era, social media is one of the largest sources of brand visibility.

With over 4.6 billion people social media users (58.4% of the world population) estimated by Hootsuite and the power of targeting their ideal customer profile, companies have never had this kind of potential reach in the past.  

In the UK, Statista states that 84.3% of the population uses social media, making it the 16th country with the highest social media penetration rate and 10 places ahead of the US.

Picture This:

A customer DMs your business on Instagram. Two hours later, they haven’t received a response. What happens next? According to Sprout Social:

  • 35% of them will message a competitor.
  • 35% will not complete a purchase.
  • 33% will share their negative experience with their friends and family.
  • 18% will give a negative review on social media.

If your business takes “too long” to respond, not only do you lose a potential customer, but you are giving them away freely to your competition and losing other potential customers along the way.  

However, if you were to give your potential customer a good experience, Cyber Crew estimates that 71% of them will be more likely to recommend your brand to their friends and family.

At Sortlist, we have had the first-hand experience of visualising this growth of social media marketing in the UK with the sheer number of projects coming in. 

dana hammoudeh picture

“It’s super important for any kind of business [to be present on social media]. Back in 2015 or 2016, you would see B2B clients; they wouldn’t be interested in social media. Maybe my clients were not on Facebook or Instagram, but nowadays, even B2B does go to social media because the decision-makers are on social media. That’s where they consume content.”

Dana Hammoudeh – Social Media Lead, Chain Reaction 

Rise of Social Media Marketing in the UK and the Sectors That Invest the Most

The Top 3 Expertises

The top 3 expertises we have received projects for at Sortlist are: 

  1. Social media
  2. Public relations
  3. Advertising 
list of top 3 marketing expertises requested in the UK

The Rise of Social Media Marketing: 757% More Projects

In the first quarter of 2020, Sortlist received a total of 60 qualified projects. Two and a half years later, in Q2 of 2022, we were able to send 328 qualified projects to our partnering agencies, meaning an increase of 447%. 

line graph of the rise of social media marketing in the UK

Social media marketing has always been the number 1 expertise companies in the UK are looking to outsource

If we take a look at the growth of social media projects in the past two and a half years, there has been an increase of 757%. Continuing with this trend, in Q4 of 2024, we should receive roughly 514 social media projects.

The Sectors Looking To Strengthen Their Social Media Marketing Efforts

The top 5 sectors in the UK looking for social media agencies are:

  1. Retail
  2. Clothing & Accessories
  3. Food
  4. Real estate
  5. Beverage 
bar chart of UK sectors looking for social media marketing

The main reason why so many companies have decided it has become essential for them to be on social media platforms is for the countless amounts of benefits they provide, compared to other places to advertise their business. Let’s have a look at those benefits.

What Benefits Do Small Businesses Get From a Solid Social Media Management?

Connect With Your Audience

By creating a better bond and relationship with your customers, you have much higher chances for them to become returning and regular customers.    

list of places where consumers in the UK will engage with a brand

In fact, British consumers are most likely to connect with brands via social media. Forget the old-school phone calls and text messages; customers want to be sliding into your DMs and publicly liking your posts. 

By not having a point of contact on social media, you’re taking away your brand’s top chances of interacting with its consumers.  

ray wang headshot

Increased engagement = increased brand loyalty. 

“We see companies who have improved engagement increase cross-sell by 22%, drive up-sell revenue from 13% to 51%, and also increase order sizes from 5% to 85%.” 

R “Ray” Wang 

Audience Targeting

Instead of having an in-person store on a busy street where the majority of people who walk past won’t even acknowledge your brand, you can target your brand online specifically to those who you know will be interested in your product or service.

On Meta platforms, you can target your ads to locations as specific as towns and as precise as categories, such as “empty nesters” or “newly engaged.”

Lookalike Audiences

Next to specific targeting, you can also start targeting audiences that you may have missed as potential customers.  

graphic comparing custom audience to lookalike audience

Lookalike audiences are audiences that have similar behaviours to your target audience who social media thinks could become converting customers of your business. 

By using social media, you can discover a whole new group of potential customers that you may have missed in your previous targeting tactics.  

Customer Satisfaction

Another valuable asset that social media channels bring to companies is a more positive customer experience which, in turn, brings us back to the importance of converting one-time customers into long-term ones.

graphic showing the effect that a good online experience has on customers

As mentioned before, if a customer has a good online experience with a brand, 71% of them will be more likely to recommend it to their friends and family. The best way to ensure this is through 1-1 communication. 

Business Case: KLM Use of Social Media

KLM’s Community Management

Check out this KLM customer that has taken to social media to complain about the services he has received from the Dutch airline. 

screenshot of KLM instagram post

The passenger’s message was easily addressed and responded to by the company and referred to the right spot to file the complaint, which they have also conveniently placed in their profile bio to make it easy for customers to get in contact with them.

KLM Showing Social Movement Engagement

But social media accounts can provide businesses with much more than just pain points. They can also be a source of positive feedback and innovative ideas for your company.  

screenshot of KLM instagram post about social movement

During pride month, KLM showed its support for the LGBTQ+ community by taking to Instagram and posting the picture above. The comments section was filled with positive comments and support from either current or potentially new passengers. This is also a form of customer satisfaction.  

Seeing the outpour of love from people on social media from this kind of posts is an indicator to KLM that addressing social issues on their social media accounts increases positive engagement and customer satisfaction

How to Build Your Social Media Presence

Measuring up the Competition

With social media it is easy to keep tabs on your competitors and use new tools such as social listening to get a glimpse into the topics your audiences, and other similar ones, are talking about.

From these kinds of tools, you can learn some things about your audience, such as:

  • Social issues they are passionate about.
  • Upcoming events they may be attending.
  • Competitors they purchase products from.
  • The frequency at which they use social media.

How to Avoid Social Media Marketing #FOMO

it is important for both big and small companies to have a solid and professional social media strategy to live up to consumer expectations and give their business a chance. 

list of facts about the importance of having a social media account for UK businesses

According to Sprout Social, 80% of customers that walk in your store are expecting you to have a social media presence as well. But not only that. 62% of them that walk in believe that if you’re not on social media, your business will most likely die out in the long run. 

But even with these high statistics, and the benefits of having a solid social media strategy that we have outlined before, only 40% of small to medium businesses in the UK are present on social media platforms. There is double the percentage in the US. 

But things seem to have started to take a turn since last year. Back in 2021, a Statista survey published that paid social media marketing was the number one area in which UK marketers were planning to increase their investments come 2022.

Social Media Marketing is More Than Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter

The social platform a business decides to use is based on a wide range of factors that include the demographics of users vs. the target audience.

list of top platforms for social media marketing in the UK

The Social Shepherd revealed that almost 50% of Snapchat users are under the age of 25… not ideal for B2B companies who may want to focus more on LinkedIn, in which, according to Omnicore Agency, 50% of users are between 25 and 34 years old).

However, on average there is a large potential loss in platforms such as WhatsApp, with only 7% of marketers planning to include it in their future social media marketing strategy.

WhatsApp and Your Morning Coffee

The Saudi Arabia-based digital marketing agency ANCHOVY. recently teamed up with Nespresso on a social media project based on a WhatsApp campaign.  

graphic showing the result of Nespresso WhatsApp campaign

Nespresso was looking to “grow their coffee capsules sales through retaining their coffee machine customers as returning customers.” But they were lacking two main insights: their customers’ favourite coffee flavour and how frequently they purchased the product.

Nespresso saw a 300% increase in its sales within the first 30 days of the campaign. It also happened to be the biggest number in sales since the company had started! 

zak borg headshot

“The speed at which the Middle East runs, the European market cannot understand. In the European markets, you send an email, you wait 24 hours, it comes in… everything there is on WhatsApp. You can forget receiving an email.  I think things are moving much, much faster there. And from my perspective, I think us Europeans, we’re way behind the curve now when it comes to markets like Dubai and Saudi where they are running at such a pace that our European team has to send an email, wait for it to come back. You send a WhatsApp there and within 10 seconds receive a reply.“

Zak Borg – Co-founder and Director of ANCHOVY

Post With A Purpose

Your brand needs to stand out. Unfortunately, marketers and consumers don’t always have the same idea as to what that means.

graphic showing the effects of social media engagement on consumers and marketers in the UK

If you don’t pay much attention to giving your brand a leitmotif, you’re hurting the most important aspect that makes your brand distinct from the others in the eyes of the consumer.  


GoPro’s Instagram page is considered by Eclincher as the best brand to follow on social media. But what makes them stand out?

screenshot of GoPro Instagram post
  • Almost exclusively, they post pictures taken by their customers.
  • They encourage others to send in their submissions.
  • They hold frequent photography/videography competitions via their social channels.
  • They engage with their followers in the comments.
  • They provide a wide variety of different images.
  • They often give insights into their latest technological updates or tips on how best to use their technology.
  • They frequently post about current social issues going on around the world.

Still, it’s hard keeping up with all these factors to ensure that your brand gets a shot at visibility.

UK SMBs Need A Helping Hand With Social Media Marketing

Not only do you have to keep up communication with clients, but you also need to be aware of emerging trends and have a constant flow of new and exciting ideas for campaigns

It’s impossible to have someone working in-house 24/7 all year round to keep up with your social media marketing efforts. This is why you may want to look into hiring a social media marketing agency.

An agency can also have some extra perks and know some social media tips that you may not have access to with your internal team.

From engagement rates to managing social media management tools, social media agencies have a clear overview of industry trends and social media usage in general on both the business and client sides. So why not make the most of these experts?

sydney clarke headshot

“I’ve worked as an internal marketing executive for a company, and I’ve also worked at an agency. I think the difference between the two is that, yes, in-house might be a little bit cheaper, but although they’re focusing on your brand 24/7, they don’t do it day in and day out. At an agency, I feel that when you’re doing it day in and day out with so many different clients, you’re in a constant learning process, and what works for one client may not work for another. You’re actually using the data from all your clients to improve your overall knowledge.”

Sydney Clarke – Director of Social Milk Marketing

Conclusion: Social Media Marketing Is More Important than Ever for UK Businesses

The marketplace has become saturated with all kinds of products and services thanks to globalisation and digitalisation, making it difficult for businesses to stand out.

Whether you work for a conglomerate or a small business, it has become more important than ever to build relationships with customers. These relationships have been proven to initiate, grow, and persist via social media networks, and businesses across the UK are starting to make the most of social media tools at their disposal. But there is still a lot more potential for many businesses out there.

If your business goals include increasing brand visibility and boosting lead generation, but your business has yet to be present on a social media network, get in touch with a social media agency by posting your project and get started.

More than that, any business that is already present on a social network can benefit from an agency’s helping hand and conduct a thorough social media audit. 

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